Hidden Gems – Dark Cloud (PS2)

North American Box Art.

Taking some time to go for the throwback of my childhood on our discussion today. Easily one of the most difficult games that I played growing up mostly due to me not knowing proper strategies and tactics to beat the first boss in the game. Years later, I finally played through the game in it’s entirety and I must say that this game deserves to be recognized. Without further adieu, let’s dive into the game that started a company’s path in the games industry.

Screenshot of Toan battling one of the enemies in a dungeon. Notice the text on screen letting the player know that their weapon is close to breaking, this is a system not many games use.

Dark Cloud was released in Japan in 2000 and later released in 2001 for the U.S. and Europe by Level-5, a developer that would later go onto to create the Professor Layton series, Ni No Kuni series, and develop Dragon Quest VIII for the Playstation 2. This action role-playing game puts in the the shoes of Toan, a boy tasked with saving his home and the rest of the world from the diabolical deeds of the Dark Genie and the Lagoon Empire Army of the East. The game has heavy RPG elements attached to the various characters you play, such as the ability to upgrade weapons with the use of elemental changing items and stat-boosters. One of the more interesting elements that this game has is that your weapons can break over time, similar to Breath of the Wild, if you don’t repair them. Much of the gameplay takes place in procedurally-generated dungeons that change each time you enter them. These areas also contain “back areas” that have additional goodies and treasure for the player if a key item is found in the dungeon. However, the most peculiar game mechanic is the “Atla”, which are magical orbs that contain people, buildings, and other components of different villages and towns. The player finds these orbs inside the dungeons and they are used to rebuild the areas torn apart by the villians in the game. When rebuilding these areas, the player can enter a mode that acts very similar to a city building game in the sense that they can choose the placement and arraignment of the buildings. Though it is not required to rebuild each area you come across, doing so will award the player for their efforts.

Screenshot of the Georama Mode, which provides the player the ability to arrange building, roads, waterways, and other terrain decorations.

This game has many aspects that make it both fun and memorable, but it still seems that may gamers seemed to pass by this title. However, an emulation of this game was ported to the Playstation 4 back in 2015, it doesn’t quite provide the same feel as the original. The story and characters you meet along the way have an effect on the player as the twists and turns of what occurs leave the player wanting to know more. All the party members have their own abilities and backgrounds that add diversity and give the player the ability to create strategies based on melee and ranged fighting styles. Not to mention that this game’s glitches are loads of fun to play around with as players have been able to access beta items and other tools that are still present in the game’s data. There is a certain quality to this game that keeps me coming back for more even after beating the game that eluded me as a kid. Games that hold that kind of charm are scarce and I only wish that more people would have played this game when it first came out.

I know that I say this with most of my posts, but if you happen to come across a copy of this game, play it. Some people like to have the original version (me) and others like to have them on more modern consoles, but I guarantee that a playthrough of this game on any consoles will still be fun as hell.

Gameplay of Xiao, one of the other party members in the game. She offers the play the use of ranged attacks giving the player different tactics and attack preferences.

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